by Peterson Toscano
I keep having to remind myself that it is not even a full year since Christine Bakke and I launched Beyond Ex-Gay (bXg) and the Ex-Gay Survivor Movement. That was in April of 2007 after an all night crazy session where we posted nearly 30 pages of content in eight hours. Now we have over 120 pages of content with loads of narratives, art work, articles and resources. Soon we will have a recap of what happened in Memphis with photos, video and more.
After the launch of bXg, we partnered with Soulforce and UC Irvine's LGBT resource center to organize the first ever Ex-Gay Survivor Conference in Irvine, CA. By choosing to have it in the same city and the same week as Exodus' annual conference, we saw the beginnings of a deeper sharing that previously had not taken place between ex-gay leaders and ex-gay survivors.
By telling our stories through art, in the media, over dinner, in a chalk talk, apologies, through video and written narratives, our message has been that for many of us, our ex-gay experiences caused us more harm than good. In telling our stories we have sought to understand what happened to us and to stand as a witness and warning about some of the harm that can come from trying to change and suppress our orientation and gender differences.
People began to listen. Others felt encouraged to speak out. In less than a year dozens have come forward, not to attack ex-gays, but simply to share how the ex-gay life was not possible or healthy for them, and that they found a better way for themselves.
Some discussions we held were very public, others very private, and will remain private. And we have begun to see shifts and changes.
Love Won Out has since revamped their web site and now presents a slightly more realistic picture about change than they have in the past. Ex-gay leaders attended some of the Ex-Gay Survivor Conference events and blogged about how moved they were by what they saw and heard. People have begun to use the term ex-gay survivor in the media and on their blogs. Recently Wendy Gritter, a leader of an Exodus affiliated program in Canada, specifically referred to the stories at Beyond Ex-Gay in her keynote address to Exodus leaders earlier this year. Wendy has since published a piece over at Ex-Gay Watch outlining some changes she would like to see take place at Exodus.
And today we learn from Ex-Gay Watch that Alan Chambers announced that
This is good news indeed and comes after much work on the part of folks both within and outside of Exodus to help the leadership to consider backing away from getting tangled in debates about LGBT rights.
In August, 2007 after a lot of prayer, deliberation and listening to friends and critics alike — but mostly the Lord — we decided to back out of policy issues and our Director of Government Affairs took a position with another organization.
Back in July during the Ex-Gay Survivor Initiative sponsored by Soulforce, ex-gay survivors shared their stories around the country with a recurring theme about harm, but also with a call to ex-gay leaders and church leaders to consider pastoral care and people's lives before politics.
John Corvino, a philosophy professor and wonderful lecturer about LGBT issues recently wrote an excellent article about ex-gay issues. In it he says,
People often ask me what I think about ex-gay ministries. I have no objection to them in principle, but serious problems with them in practice.You can read the rest of the piece here.
I have no objection to them in principle because I believe we should give others the same respect that we ourselves demand. That includes giving people wide latitude about living their lives as they see fit. If you really believe that you’re heterosexual deep down, and you want to take steps to help realize that identity, far be it from me to insist otherwise. I’ll let you be the expert on what you feel deep down, as long as you show me the same courtesy.
Lovely shifts and dramatic changes are happening. Thank you to all ex-gay survivors who have stepped up to share their lives and their stories. Later this week along with Box Turtle Bulletin we will release more video of ex-gay survivors who recently began to speak out. We cannot underestimate the power of telling our stories honestly, vulnerably, not out revenge or malice but out of concern for others who may not know the other side of the story.
(posted here by Christine, written by Peterson Toscano. I'm thrilled by all the progress made and by Exodus' willingness to listen, but busy putting our post-Memphis recap pages together so we can show them soon!)